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PAYS Program Pays Off in Powerful Ways

Martin Berrera '13, a PAYS alumnus who now attends Pomona College

Martin Berrera '13, a PAYS alumnus who now attends Pomona College

The Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) is one of the most expansive and effective programs of its kind. A college-prep summer session aimed at low-income high school students, PAYS started in 2003. Today Pomona provides the free program to 90 students from 40 local high schools.

The four-week academically intensive session enrolls high schoolers from traditionally underrepresented groups--most are Black or Latino--and gives them an opportunity to experience college at a top academic institution. The students live in Pomona’s residence halls (going home on weekends), take classes from Pomona professors and receive daily tutoring from Pomona students. Most attend three summers in a row, starting after their freshman year in high school.

The chance to attend PAYS is coveted; hundreds of teenagers apply every year to be one of the 30 rising sophomores accepted into the program. And it’s no wonder: PAYS is a huge success. A full 100 percent of its graduates have been accepted into college, including such elite schools as Harvard, Princeton and Pomona. (Fourteen PAYS alumni have matriculated to Pomona.)

Providing such opportunities is why financial support for programs like PAYS is so vital, says Ranney Draper ’60, who supported the creation of Pomona’s Draper Center for Community Partnerships, which runs PAYS.

“We’re setting these students off on paths that they didn’t know about before,” says Draper. “It’s very gratifying. We really can change people’s lives.”

Two of those people are Martin Barrera ’13 and Kevin Delucio, who say that the rigorous academic curriculum, which focuses on math, critical thinking and writing skills, was excellent preparation for college. In addition, PAYS exposed both to the benefits of attending a small liberal arts college. Barrera and Delucio say they relished the small class sizes in PAYS (typically about 15 students) and the chance to work closely with their professors. Also key,
they add, was talking to the Pomona students working in the program--people close to their own age group who spoke about the benefits of a liberal arts education.

Barrera, in his sophomore year at Pomona, and Delucio, who graduated in June from Williams College, have each returned to PAYS to be teaching assistants--giving back to the program that gave so much to them.

Bridgette Depay ’12 says Pomona students who work at PAYS find it greatly rewarding. She served as a teaching assistant this past summer and says she loved having a positive impact on young people through her tutoring, mentoring and teaching. (The TAs teach elective courses.)

Most PAYS students, who come from the Los Angeles area and Inland Empire, are the first ones in their families to attend college, notes Maria Tucker, director of the Draper Center, adding that countless parents have expressed deep gratitude for the opportunities that PAYS provides for their children.

“That’s what makes it so fulfilling to work in a job like this,” she says.

Editor's note: The article was originally published in our Fall 2010 Pomona College Campaign Journal, which is a newsletter updating the Pomona College community on campaign progress. For more information, please visit our campaign website.